Why I Bought a 3T Exploro Racemax

3T made the Exploro Racemax gravel bike to handle nearly everything, and do it with aerodynamic efficiency. Here's why I picked this bike to ride in 2022. 

3T Exploro Racemax

Written by
Spencer Powlison

Published on

Posted in
Bikes

Well, we had a good run, but this year, it was finally time to part ways with my Lauf True Grit, sell it to The Pro’s Closet, and let it find a new home. It’s the bike that carried me from Boulder to Kansas (among many other adventures). I am not an impulse buyer. The decision to buy a new bike is very agonizing. After months of hemming and hawing, I landed on this 3T Exploro Racemax.

Why did I go from a more trail-friendly Lauf to the aerodynamic 3T race machine? Here’s how I weighed the differences and decided to buy the 3T Exploro. Maybe, this breakdown will help you make up your mind if you’re having trouble picking your next bike.

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3T Exploro front end

My natural habitat

I have been very satisfied with the Lauf, but it isn’t perfect. With a long wheelbase, slack head angle, and a Grit suspension fork, it’s meant for rugged gravel. You know, like that chunky stuff in Emporia, Kansas that gives everyone fits. Well, for most of my local rides, that’s a bit too much.

The dirt and gravel around Boulder, Colorado tends to be pretty smooth. We also contend with notable stretches of pavement to connect off-road segments, so it’s not strictly dirt surfaces. Sure, there are some rowdy Forest Service roads and singletracks that connect different canyons, but these days, I have a Cannondale F-Si hardtail mountain bike that’s great for that sort of action.

I needed a gravel bike for all roads, but not quite an “all-road” bike.

The 3T Exploro Racemax’s best features

With my terrain in mind, I cast about for a gravel bike that would trend a little more pavement-friendly than the Lauf. I settled on the 3T Exploro Racemax for a few reasons:

Geometry

3T Exploro geometry

The True Grit mimics XC mountain bike geometry. I didn’t want to fall into the realm of road bike geometry, but quicker handling was a priority — the line can get pretty thin and blurry. So when I saw the 3T’s 71-degree head angle and 1,008mm wheelbase, it seemed like just the ticket. Plus its bottom bracket is 12mm lower than the Lauf, adding a bit of stability despite the other dimensions.  

Aerodynamics

Aero 3T Exploro

While I don’t get too wound-up about aerodynamics, I was curious to try the Exploro. In fact, I’ve never owned any sort of aero bike — road or gravel (or MTB, but that’s silly right?). The new Grounded Nebraska gravel race is on my calendar, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to see if 3T’s technology will help on the windswept prairie. Plus, the oblong down tube shape shields my water bottles from tire spray. Bonus!

Parts

3T Exploro parts

In the case of this specific 3T Exploro Racemax, the parts were perfect. I’m sold on SRAM AXS shifting; I prefer that system’s brake feel too. The alloy 3T cockpit is a bit underwhelming, but it’s hard to complain when the package is rounded out by Zipp 303s wheels.

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Mods I made

Out of the box, I swapped the rear derailleur, cassette, and cranks. My Lauf had the new SRAM AXS XPLR drivetrain, and I prefer that 10-44T cassette to the massive 10-50T spread of the Eagle AXS drivetrain. Wireless shifting makes this sort of swap a breeze. I didn’t need to change the cranks, but I wanted to keep my Quarq power meter, and I prefer 170mm cranks for my stumpy legs, even though 2.5mm is not very much.

SRAM XPLR gravel drivetrain

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Buyer’s remorse

In addition to (or maybe in conjunction with) my staggering indecisiveness on new bike purchases, I’m also prone to buyer’s remorse. Two things bummed me out about the 3T. 

First, when I swapped cranks, it was tricky to get the bottom bracket spacing correct. 3T chooses a Token Ninja thread-together bottom bracket instead of a conventional SRAM Dub pressfit for the BB386 frame shell. Once it’s set, you’re good. The thread-together system might help minimize creaking. But I like the simple confidence of matching the SRAM BB with SRAM crank and knowing the spacers fit. [/nerd_rant]

Second, the Exploro Racemax isn’t quite as light as I wish it were. It’s respectable at 18.5lbs, but I have some steep climbs in my neighborhood. Perhaps I’ll mount some ENVE G23 wheels to drop a little rotating weight.

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Conclusion

3T Exploro Racemax on gravel

Don’t be fooled by those gripes, I’m really excited about my new bike. It looks fast standing still. And after just a few rides, I could tell l made the right decision — the handling and responsiveness are just what I was looking for, without sacrificing too much off-pavement capability. Plus, judging by the extremely non-scientific method of rolling it through the TPC warehouse, I can say that overall sentiment is unanimously positive. And we all care a little about what our friends think of our bikes, don’t we?

Got any questions about my setup? Need help picking your next bike? Keep scrolling and leave a comment!

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